For my final post, I’m straying a bit from a specific library’s use of mashups, to a mashup that can be (and undoubtedly is being) used by librarians the world over:  LibWorm.  As a future librarian, I feel there are so many good ideas “out there” on the ‘Net that could be of use to me in my professional career, but there are not enough hours in the day for me to effectively search for everything I could want.  So a search tool like LibWorm, a search engine for the “biblioblogosphere,” seemed especially useful when I first found it described on this page from the Talis competition.

Here’s its FAQ page, where it basically says it is meant to be a “professional development tool” and current-awareness helper for librarians or people interested in libraries.   How does it work?  As much as I can tell, it provides an RSS feed from RSS feeds.  (No, really!)  Currently it mashes together 1400+ feeds related to libraries (found from lists on existing wikis and constantly submitted by individual bloggers, so the list is growing) and adds a search interface; so librarians can search for terms, or look at categories, tags, or subjects that interest them.  Then when they find a particular category or combination of search terms that’s most useful for them, they can set up their own RSS feed to get that information delivered to them.  If I’m in a time-crunch (and who isn’t?), I like this already!

Obviously this isn’t linked to any specific library, so I can’t analyze how well it is tied into the library’s other services.  But I would imagine this type of service appeals to librarians (or those interested in libraries) who are already at least moderately tech-savvy (know what RSS is and how to set one up, though the homepage here also includes directions for that to help out newbies).  I could see myself using this once I get into a specific library role and want to be updated on podcasts in academic libraries, say, or Personnel/HR/Jobs (hey, maybe I should subscribe to that one now, can’t start looking for a job too early… ), or Humor for when the jobsearch gets depressing…

On the usability front, this website scores well on my card.  Its front page (screenshot to left) seems to have taken a tip from that search-meister Google and made its home page very clearly all about searching.  No ads at all (a pleasant surprise!), lots of white space so one’s eye clearly goes to the search box, a few links to the Feed Categories, Subjects, and Tags, but nothing that detracts from the search capabilities.

If one clicks on the categories or subjects, one gets displays like these two screenshots:

We get a few Ads by Google now (hey, nobody’s perfect), but other than that, the display is still very clean, with navigational links at the top and one-click access (the orange buttons) to set up the RSS feed.  Honestly, I can’t see how they could make it any easier.  Findability… well, that’s unfortunately a bit harder.  I found it from the Talis page, and on trying a couple Google searches, for “library blogs RSS” and “library biblioblogosphere” (I know, that term’s a stretch for the layperson to know), I didn’t see LibWorm in the first couple pages.  So it might be suffering from its newness, or whatever things Google’s algorithms consider.  But I really hope it becomes more findable, because it deserves it!

Another thing I like about LibWorm is that it seems rather international — when I searched for “mashups” I got this results page, with 3 results on the first page alone that looked like they were in Italian and Swedish (I’m guessing?), and almost certainly I would get more if I searched for a non-English word.  So this is a tool useful for international librarians or any interested non-English-speakers.  Speaking of the search results page, it again makes it easy for someone to set up an RSS feed into their own personal reader (it offers Google Reader, Newsgator, and Bloglines buttons), and it automatically sorts by date (though Relevance is also an option).

Overall, excellent layout, visual appeal, ease of use, and a very handy tool for busy librarians everywhere — what’s not to like!  What do you think?

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